Father Patrick Hennessy, who was robbed and attacked in May at his rectory in Scotland, says he has forgiven his robber and wants to visit him in prison to give him pastoral care.
Michael McTaggart, 41, was sentenced to four years imprisonment July 17 at Glasgow Sheriff Court for the May 13 robbery of Fr. Hennessy, 73.
Fr. Hennessy told the Scottish Catholic Observer after the sentencing that “it's a heavy sentence for the fella and I feel quite sorry for him as I think he must have so many problems. I wasn’t expecting him to get anything like four years jail time, it’s obviously a huge mistake for the guy.”
“I would now actually go and visit him in prison if it could be arranged because he obviously needs some help.”
Around 9:40 pm on May 13, McTaggart knocked on Fr. Hennessy's rectory door. Fr. Hennessy is pastor of St. Columbkille's in Rutherglen, in the Diocese of Motherwell, and is known regularly to help those who come to his door with donations of food.
McTaggart grabbed the priest and demanded money.
“Father Hennessy gave him two pink collection envelopes he believed to contain £10 each and five pounds from his pocket,” prosecutor Louise MacNeil told the court, according to Glasgow Live's Ashlie McAnally.
McTaggart continued asking for money, and Fr. Hennessy gave him a donation box, thought to have had about GBP 100 ($130).
While McTaggart went through the envelopes in the donation box, Fr. Hennessy was able to run into the street and alert neighbors, and McTaggart fled.
At the sentencing the judge, Martin Jones, addressed McTaggart, saying, “You have pled guilty to an extremely serious offence … You used violence to extract money from him and pulled hm in to the house after you had obtained money and threatened him in the vestibule of the premises.”
“The time has come to realise if you continue offending this way your sentences are going to get longer and longer.”
At the time of the assault, McTaggart had been released early from a previous sentence.
Fr. Hennessy said the St. Vincent de Paul Society will now handle donations at St. Columbkille's, and is operated out of the parish hall.
The Motherwell diocese commented that “the safety of priests and religious living in parishes is paramount. In light of recent incidents, the diocese has offered support to all priests to review the security measures across all presbyteries and parish halls.”
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